Cook heroics not enough as India claim emphatic win

08:18 19 November 2012

England captain Alastair Cook. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

England captain Alastair Cook. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

PA Wire

Alastair Cook’s heroic resistance ended in empty anti-climax as England lost the first Test to India by nine wickets at the Sardar Patel Stadium.

The chances of a brave rearguard being commuted into a famous stalemate in this first match of four centred on Cook (176) and Matt Prior (91) on the final day.

But they could augment their combined defiance by only 16 more runs this morning - and with their stand of 157 broken, England lost their last five wickets for only 50 in a lunchtime 406 all out.

India’s resulting target of 77 was then treated with near contempt by Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara, whose aggression put paid to any fanciful notion that Graeme Swann’s off-spin might yet make life difficult on a worn pitch.

Sehwag was well caught by Kevin Pietersen on the long-on boundary off Swann, with only 20 more runs required.

But India’s unbeaten first-innings double-centurion Pujara - opening in place of the absent Gautam Gambhir - made no mistake and took his and Sehwag’s shared match aggregate to almost 400 runs to help finish the contest in only 15.3 overs. Cook and Prior had given England hope where none previously existed, after following on 330 runs behind two days ago.

But both were gone in the first hour, as Pragyan Ojha (four for 120) took his match haul to nine wickets.

The hugely admirable sixth-wicket stand ended, after exactly four hours, when Prior laid back to hit a short ball but was undone by a lack of pace and looped a simple catch back to Ojha.

He had occupied 225 balls and given Cook much-deserved and lasting support, but still England needed more to prevent India completing a victory which most thought surely theirs ever since the tourists were bowled out for just 191 on Saturday afternoon.

Even Cook could not quite provide it.

It was fitting too that it should be Ojha who finally got him.

After almost nine and a half hours, India found a way past the England captain when he went fatally back to his 374th ball - which turned and kept low to beat his hurried defence and bowl him off his pad.

Stuart Broad poked back the second caught-and-bowled of the day, also off the back foot, to Umesh Yadav (three for 70).

Tim Bresnan and Swann ensured England were not quite done with yet, keeping India at bay for 35 more minutes.

But there was double and terminal disappointment for the tourists just before lunch.

First, Swann aimed a reverse-sweep at R Ashwin - who had replaced Ojha - and was bowled middle-stump; then Bresnan was last out, caught at cover off Zaheer Khan.

Swann’s in particular was a frustrating departure, just as he and Bresnan were beginning to revive hope of at least setting India a three-figure target.

But the real damage, of course, was done long ago - in a first innings Prior neatly summed up as a “shocker”, and by a middle order who in their eight collective attempts to make the substantial runs for which they were picked could mustered only 68 between them.

England must come up with some effective solutions to that problem - and several others, such as the balance and personnel of their bowling attack - if they are to be competitive in the second Test, starting in Mumbai on Friday.

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